Sonata in E minor for Flute, Harpsichord, and Continuo BWV 1034 (1724)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Program note written by Jacob Farmer

I. Adagio ma non tanto
II. Allegro
III. Andante
IV. Allegro

Approximate Performance Time:
15 minutes

Advanced – appropriate for upper college undergraduates and master students

James Galway. Flute Sonata No. 2 in E Minor, BWV 1034. Sony, 1995. MP3.Emanuel Pahud & Trevor Pinnock. Flute Sonata No. 2 in E Minor, BWV 1034. EMI Records Ltd, 2008. MP3.

Source Article:
Mehne, Wendy Ann. A research/performance Edition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Acknowledged Flute Sonatas. Order No. 9221923 The University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1992 Ann Arbor ProQuest. 30 Sep. 2016.

Johann Sebastian Bach was virtuosic in his early years but without the fame and notoriety one would expect from his exceptionalism. Born 1685 and raised in Eisenach, a small town in Thuringia, Bach attended the Latin Grammar School, where the boys of the school formed a small choir allowing him to exercise his “uncommonly fine treble voice.” Bach began as an organist for the court of the ruling Grand Dukes of Weimar where he wrote most of his music for organ (like Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor), then later in 1717 relocated to Cothen to serve as Court Kapellmeister to Leopald. Bach’s compositions span choral music (most notably Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147), organ, keyboard, orchestral, chamber music and concertos. In 1723, Leipzig became his home, where he lead the Choir School of St Thomas, and eventually the University Collegium Musicum. It was during his stent in Cothen that Bach was able to focus on compositions for solo instruments, including a series of flute sonatas, both accompanied and unaccompanied. 

Piece Information:
Bach’s Sonata in E minor for Flute, Harpsichord, and Continuo BWV 1034, was written for the newly popular instrument, the traverso or one key flute, replacing the recorder. The piece has four movements alternating between fast and slow tempi. The second movement proves challenging for the flutist because it comprises of over one hundred successive 16thnotes with no place to breathe. The final movement contains an interesting imitative dialogue between the flute and the continuo in a cannon form. Bach’s instrumental works like these were used in a series of concerts given in a Leipzig coffee house around 1724.